A Mountain Oasis

I’ve been on about a half-dozen nature photography trips so far, and I’ve stayed in a range of ecolodges; none of them has been what you would call fancy, but all have been perfectly adequate—as long as you bring a sense of flexibility and good humor. There was a memorable one in Peru where one wall of your bedroom was wide-open to the jungle, and you never knew what kind of critters might visit while you slept. And one in Ecuador where the hardware that was holding up the bathroom sink was so rusted that it broke, and the sink fell off the wall while I was using it.

Shortly after our arrival at Itororó.

Ecolodge Itororó—the lodge where the Glenn Bartley workshop portion of the Brazil trip started—was fairly basic and yet pretty sweet, in my view. From the small city of Nova Friburgo you take a paved road that turns into a dirt road and becomes increasingly steep and bumpy, until you reach an altitude of about 4,000 feet, where a few small buildings sit in a secluded area. That’s Itororó.

There’s a main cabin that consists of a small dining room and a kitchen; the sleeping rooms are in various buildings that have been Read more

Sooooo Many Tanagers

Rufous-headed tanager, Ecolodge Itororó.

One of the things I was really looking forward to in Brazil was the wide variety of tanagers. In the Eastern U.S. we have scarlet tanagers and summer tanagers, and that’s pretty much it. The Western states get western tanagers. But there actually are more than 240 species of tanagers, many of them amazingly colorful, and more than half of them live in South America.

We saw a few tanagers at REGUA lodge—palm tanagers, sayaca tanagers (or “sciatica tanagers,” as Elizabeth liked to call them), black-goggled tanagers, and burnished-buff tanagers, among others. Then we drove to Itororó ecolodge for the next four nights, and the first afternoon there brought a bonanza of tanagers and other birds. We arrived at Itororó at lunchtime, met the other workshop participants and the two leaders—Glenn Bartley and Andy Foster, ate lunch as a group, quickly put our bags in our rooms, and immediately set up our tripods to take photos at the lodge’s fruit feeders.

In North America, people attract birds to their backyards by putting out feeders with sunflower seeds, thistle seed, maybe some nuts, sometimes suet or peanut butter, and so on. In the tropics, birds are more attracted to fruit, so a lodge will typically put out a tray of bananas, papaya, and whatever other fruit is available. The birds at the Itororó fruit feeders that first afternoon were among the most memorable of the trip for me, with Read more

Want to Go on a Snipe Hunt?

Giant snipe.

I have a vague childhood memory of being involved in a snipe hunt in the woods behind my house. I don’t remember much, except that a large paper bag was involved, and that no snipes were actually captured that night. For those not familiar, a snipe hunt is a prank played on a gullible person and involves trying to catch a nonexistent creature called a snipe.

On the Brazil trip last month, I joined several other people on a hunt for an actual snipe: a species of South American bird called the giant snipe. And we actually found one. But more on that in a moment; first, a look at some of the other birding we did that day, followed by a slide show of some of the highlights.

After our somewhat disappointing outing to Macaé de Cima the previous day, Thomas, the lodge manager at REGUA, suggested an excursion he thought we might find more productive: Read more